Foreign Secretary will meet officials from White House and Departments of State and Defense

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale arrived in the American capital on Wednesday for talks with senior U.S. officials ahead of the first India-U.S. 2+2 dialogue in Delhi in September. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James Mattis are scheduled to travel to India for the 2+2 dialogue with their Indian counterparts, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, respectively.

Mr. Gokhale is scheduled to meet with officials from the White House, and Departments of State and Defense over the next two days.

The conversations will cover a broad range of issues, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump’s summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July, sources told The Hindu.

Both sides are encouraged by the buoyancy in bilateral ties in the last two weeks, soon after the postponement of the 2+2 dialogue that was scheduled for the first week of July in Washington.

Mr. Pompeo had abruptly cancelled the meeting, citing his travel to Pyongyang, dampening the ties significantly. In the weeks that followed, the Trump administration persuaded the U.S. Congress to pass legislation that could allow a waiver for India from anti-Russia third party sanctions, and eased control of exports to India, paving the way for further enhancement of defence trade between the countries.

India has been granted the Strategic Trade Authorisation, or STA-1, status that placed it with a group of 36 countries, mostly NATO allies. Japan and South Korea are the only Asian countries in this group. The status allows for sale of more sensitive technologies to India than was earlier permitted. Indian Navy also participated in the Rim of Pacific Multinational Naval exercise last week.

Trade talks

But trade negotiations between the two countries remain the Achilles Heel for bilateral ties. The mid-July talks between India and the U.S. on outstanding trade disputes did not produce a deal as expected by observers. India had offered to amend its price control regime for medical equipment in return for America retaining India’s Generalised System of Preferences status in trade.

Sources familiar with the developments told The Hindu that American negotiators raised the stake, and added new demands that were not acceptable to India. “There are multiple issues involved and a decision could be possible only at a higher level, perhaps at the political level,” an official said.

Another official said both countries are in a position to “manage” trade disputes, and the Trump administration is cognizant of the reducing trade gap between the countries, thanks to the increase in energy and civilian aircraft purchases by India.

This is Mr. Gokhale’s second visit to the U.S. capital as Foreign Secretary. His predecessor S. Jaishankar was considered an enthusiastic supporter of closer convergence of Indian and American priorities by U.S interlocutors.

With Mr. Gokhale at the helm at the Ministry of External Affairs, India and China have been mending ties that were disrupted in the initial years of the Modi government.

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